Promoting Health Equity through Art: Using PHI’s HPI to Steer Funding to Local Artists


Young people painting a mural

In 2023, the California Arts Council’s Creative Corps used PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Healthy Places Index to guide funding to artists and organizations that represent historically under-resourced California communities, helping to address health inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

$60M in funding directed to local artists and arts-based organizations, working alongside communities most impacted by systemic inequities

18 grantees selected for funding in 2023, representing diverse communities across the state

In 2023, the California Arts Council’s (CAC) Creative Corps Pilot Program used PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Healthy Places Index (HPI) to identify neighborhoods most in need and guide $60 million in funding to artists and organizations across California to raise awareness and promote social justice, public health, civic engagement, sustainability, climate mitigation and more.
The HPI is a powerful data, mapping and policy platform that evaluates the relationship between 23 evidence-based key drivers of health and life expectancy at birth—which can vary dramatically by neighborhood. Based on that analysis, it produces a score that shows the relative impact of community conditions in a selected area compared to all other such places in the state. To meet the Creative Corps grant allocation requirements, awardees must either live in or work closely and demonstrate solid and continuous connections with communities that fall within the lowest quartile of the HPI.
The California Creative Corps is as an engagement campaign designed to increase public awareness about issues of public health, water and energy conservation, civic engagement, social justice and more. This project is funded by the California Arts Council, the state’s arts agency with a mission of strengthening arts, culture and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. By leveraging the HPI in the Creative Corps program, arts are emerging as a vessel for advocacy and equity in communities that have been historically divested. CAC is now using HPI to transform all future grant programs.
Jonathan Moscone, Executive Director, California Arts Council
It is one of the best tools, the only tool I've experienced in the last couple of years to provide that specificity and measurability. Most people need data to make the right decision; often, they're given the wrong data. This is a data tool that you can stand behind; you can get behind this data tool. Jonathan Moscone

Executive Director, California Arts Council

Backed by $60 million in general funds, the first-of-its-kind pilot program aims to supports artists and is helping to address health inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The corps of fellows received a year-long $65,000 salary plus benefits and a production budget up to $50,000 and execute year-long creative interventions across the state from Yreka near the Oregon border to City Heights in San Diego.

Projects are designed to reduce the barriers to health and well-being in communities that demonstrate the highest level of need, as identified by the HPI. Creative practices include filmmaking, poetry, graphic novels, photography, dance, and traditional art. The place-based art-making projects aim engage diverse communities, including Native peoples, migrants, LGBTQIA+, POC and other residents, and explore a broad range of systemic challenges including pollution, gentrification, healthcare, wellbeing, cultural identity and community/belonging.

ASTU headshot
As artists, we don't just create work that reflects our lived experiences. We change the narrative, challenge the status quo, and spotlight pressing issues to make a real difference. Creative Corps gets that. And with HPI in the program, we've truly grasped how our art can spark meaningful change where it matters most. ASTU

A Black, queer, and gender-expansive Oakland-based artist selected as one of the 2023 Creative Corps grantees

In total, Creative Corps received 375 proposals from artists and cultural practitioners in communities throughout California. In June 2023, 18 proposals were selected for funding, including:

  • Sanctuary, a musical theatre production that reimagines church through the experience, expression and celebration of the Black Trans and Queer community
  • Voices of the Golden Ghosts, a film highlighting the experiences of African Americans who participated in the California Gold Rush
  • Rolling Acorn Art Lab, pop-up workshops that leverage Indigenous knowledge and the arts to explore the connections between climate change and racial and social inequalities
  • ISEA Us, a storytelling project amplifying the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ women, femme and/or non-binary California community members of indigenous Southeast Asian diaspora with ancestral roots in Laos

Learn more about the grantees.


Watch: How HPI Guides Funding to Promote Health Equity Through Art Across California

Screenshot from HPI APHA 2023 video

This video was originally screened at the 2023 American Public Health Association Film Festival.

A version of this impact story was first published by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California.

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